Islamist militia linked to Sept. 11 Benghazi attack operates freely in city

The Ansar al Sharia Brigade, the Islamist terror group linked to the Sept. 11, 2012, attack on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, continues to operate freely in that Libyan city, according to U.S. military officials.

The group remains active in the Mediterranean port city, operating patrols and checkpoints, and earlier this year reached an agreement with other Islamist groups allowing it to operate openly, said military officials familiar with intelligence reports from North Africa.

The group "continues to spread its ideology in the Benghazi area, particularly targeting youth," said one official, who noted that the lack of central government security was the key reason the militia has not been suppressed.

The officials disclosed details of the group's activities on condition of anonymity.

Ansar al Sharia also is using Facebook to publicize its activities, including charitable work in poor areas, and is constructing some buildings. It also claimed to be operating a medical clinic in Benghazi. Other activities include repairing schools and holding conferences for local youth.

According to the officials, the group successfully exploited the weakness of security authorities in Benghazi and Libya in general to boost its presence. The group is attempting to reinvent itself as a humanitarian and charitable organization after the Sept. 11 attack.

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